Saturday, April 22, 2006

Notes on reading 'Wholeness and the implicate order': Introduction.

A copy of Bohm's book (Routledge Classics 2002) arrived last week, conveniently just before I set off for a few days' holiday, staying at my father's house. It looks fascinating, so I'll jot down some responses, though at this stage I don't know how far I'll take this. In any case, I should say I can be a very slow reader!

The introduction develops some rationale for Bohm's new perspective, which appears to have emerged from deep personal observation, a state of absorption, as well as his considerable experience as a physicist.

When I thought of 'wholeness' and 'reality,' what came first to mind were the elements, especially depicted in the dhammakaya meditation tradition as a sphere - the four elements of earth, fire, air and water at cardinal points surrounding the space element at the centre and within that the element of consciousness.

Things can be observed at different levels, on different scales. My impression is that at any given scale, science is familiar with progress/movement through stages and has developed laws of motion that model this accurately. However, what laws or models are there for movements between scales? What about the flow between levels of abstraction? I raise this because in the bit of literature I encounter, there seem to be different models for macro and micro, so what is happening on the journey from macro to micro?

The tensions between/balance of structure and flow can be found in many disciplines. I came across it whilst doing research in the field of [concurrent] formal methods in computer science, in which mathematical techniques are used to specify and analyse software systems. You can make a crude division in terms of orientation: one is 'structure' based, viz the so-called 'axiomatic' techniques of VDM, Z etc.that are oriented around sets; the other is 'flow'-based, which is the emphasis in process algebras - how systems are defined in terms of the actions that can be carried out from state to state rather than descriptions of the states per se and hence action-based or operational semantics. This was brought home to me by a very valuable survey of formal methods by Jonathan Ostroff [Formal Methods for the Specification and Design of Real-Time Safety Critical Systems", The Journal of Systems and Software, Vol. 18, No. 1, pp 33-60, Elsevier Scienc Publishing Co. Inc., New-York, April 1992.]

[p. xii] The content of consciousness to be 'reality as a whole'? It's quite an assumption that there can be consciousness of whole reality - is that possible? I'm glad Bohm emphasises the importance of view - it affects everything!

In the introductory class on Buddhist texts that I attended in Spring, Richard Gombrich explained how the Buddha always taught about consciousness of... [and the teachings state that viññana (translated as consciousness) is one of the 5 heaps that are not part of deathless nibbana].

[p. xiii] I can see that this work is very much contraflow vs prevailing views that have become entrenched since the so-called 'Age of Reason.' A process-oriented view was something the Buddha expounded 2500 years ago, expressed succinctly in Pali as sabbe sankhara anicca... - "all conditioned formations are impermanent." The growing interest in the Buddha's teachings presents a veritable challenge to those who separate subject from object and take a materialistic view, which seems the predominant characteristic of European thought during the past few hundred years.

[p. xiv] A language with verbal emphasis. Again, the Buddha focused teachings a great deal on processes of mind: indeed the path to Enlightenment, the Eightfold Noble Path is expressed in terms of verbs, starting with 'Right View' and detailed modes of practice themselves as expressed in e.g. the Satipatthana Sutta describe exercises through the four modes of mindfuless (body, feelings, mind, mental qualities) - that are always working with change; magga is a flow/process of going through stages and something that may be worth noting is that what also occurs is a subtle progression in the nature of observation.

We can go further with emphasising verbs and one of the most striking example can be found in the Buddha's instruction to Bahiya (see previous entry), "in the seeing, just the seen; in the hearing, just the heard, ..." But this is for a very very advanced practitioner, on the brink of full final attainment. So conventionally the subject-object paradigm is often more practical ... I wonder what Bohm's 'rheomodes' is all about and how far this language can be taken...?

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